Big loss of bird habitat in Saskatchewan wildfires

A big swath of bird habitat has been lost in Saskatchewan wildfires, however, one bird expert says some birds actually thrive after a forest fire.

Bald eagles, wood warblers, sparrows may be affected

Some bird species, including woodpeckers, actually thrive in burned-out forests, according to Trevor Herriot. (Corey Hardcastle/Government of Saskatchewan)

Fires raging in Saskatchewan are forcing people from their homes, and it turns out, birds as well.

Close to 400,000 hectares of forest have burned. Bird expert Trevor Herriot says most birds simply fly away.

The problem comes for birds who were nesting during the fire. He said the big loss of forest habitat will likely affect some larger birds, including bald eagles, hawks and ospreys whose young may not have been old enough to fly. Wood warblers, fly catchers, sparrows and thrushes also may be affected.

"For now, and for this year, the birds that were nesting in those areas, some of them would have abandoned nests. Perhaps the young would have been trapped. It was a tragedy in the short term."

Woodpeckers thrive in burned-out forests

However, Herriot said in the long run, a forest fire is excellent for other species.

Woodpeckers, for instance, thrive in burned-out forests. They look for beetles in the trees. The holes that woodpeckers make eventually become homes for seed-spreading animals, including chipmunks and squirrels. 

Other birds are attracted by rare seeds from trees that only open up after a forest fire.

"Birds play a critical role in the regeneration of these places."

Herriot said fire is usually a natural part of the forest eco-system. However, he said if we see an excessive amount of fire because of climate change, it could affect birds in the long-term.


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